Good Ol' Boys - NASCAR

The Farewell Tour
By Doug Belliveau
June 7, 2000

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Darrell Waltrip

There is no doubt that Darrell Waltrip has had a fantastic career in NASCAR. He has three Winston Cup Championships to his credit. He has won 84 races, better than one out of every ten he has entered. He also has 276 top 5's and 390 top 10's under his belt, and has earned over $18 million during the past 29 seasons. He won 12 races in both 1981 and 1982. But it is apparent that the incredible success he enjoyed is well in the past. He has not won a single race since 1992, and hasn't finished in the top ten in the past two seasons.

Waltrip in his office

Michael Jordan, one of basketball's best players ever, retired while many people still considered him in his prime. Unfortunately, many stock car drivers do not. When racing is your life, it's very tough to let go. This is especially true in NASCAR, where many drivers race into their 50's. Everyone knows that open-wheel drivers are typically younger in age. Juan Montoya, the 24-year old winner of the Indy 500, was asked whether he would ever consider racing in NASCAR. His response: "Maybe when I'm older". So it's no surprise that Darrell Waltrip, at age 53, is still trying to compete with other drivers, some half his age.

At home on the high banks

But "compete" is the key word here. The #66 Ford Taurus team has had little to cheer about in Darrell's final season. His best finish to date is 26th in the DieHard 500, and he has averaged a 33rd place finish. At the Coca Cola 600, Darrell couldn't even qualify or get a provisional spot. He bought his 35th place starting position from a relatively unknown driver named Carl Long. Carl did the right thing by giving up his position in what was to be his first Winston Cup race. Darrell, in return, did the right thing by letting Carl finish the race after the rain delay. At Dover this past weekend, he finished (you guessed it) in 33rd place, 26 laps off the pace. For DW and his fans, this has to be a depressing way to end a hall-of-fame career.

With his #66 Ford Taurus

It's really a shame that careers have to wither like leaves on an autumn tree. Father Time ensures that everything good must eventually come to an end. It is a fact of life that motor skills decay and reaction times increase as you get older. In NASCAR, there aren't any John Glenns rocketing into space at age 77. But there certainly shouldn't be any heads hung low at the DW camp. Darrell is one of the premier stock car drivers that helped make NASCAR what it is today. All the young talent and rookie sensations owe a lot to guys like Darrell. And despite what's turning out to be a less than stellar final season, Darrell and his fans should be proud of what he's accomplished over the years.

His familiar #17

I would imagine that every NASCAR fan would like to see 'Ol DW somehow drive his way to victory lane once again before his career ends. Maybe with a little luck on a road course, he might just pull that off. Then he'd be where he rightfully belongs: at the top, with dignity, respect and admiration.

And don't think that's the last you'll see of DW when he hangs up his racing helmet in November. Like Richard Petty, Mario Andretti and A.J Foyt, Darrell Waltrip will not be riding into the proverbial sunset. You will not likely find him on a beach in the Bahamas sipping frozen concoctions during the race season. When racing is in your family blood, you never stray far from the track. 

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